Middleham In The Middle Ages

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Middleham is a scenic township nestled in Wensleydale, in the heart of the stunning Yorkshire Dales. Hidden behind the usual country pubs and shops of the town is Middleham Castle.

The original castle at Middleham was built around 1086. It was a Motte and Bailey castle built from wood. In the 12th century it was abandoned and a new castle was built on the site where it stands today. You can still see the earth works of the 1086 castle clearly from the tower of the present one. It consists of a large mound 12 metres high surrounded by a ditch.

The castle’s gate house is three stories high which would have been blocked by giant wooden doors and a portcullis. The upper parts of the gatehouse are elaborate with very well thought out battlements. Carved stone figures of armed soldiers could have been fixed to the battlements according to evidence found on site, as with some other castle gatehouses in Britain. This was to create an uneasy feeling as you approached.

In the inner courtyard of the castle there is a huge keep, one of the largest in the country. On the ground floor there would have been a cellar and a kitchen, along with a couple of wells and waste pits. The first floor housed the great chamber and great hall which was the main room of the castle for entertaining guests, settling disputes and holding courts and judgements.

From the 13th century the castle belonged to the Neville family, one of the most powerful families of the Middle Ages. Richard III lived in the castle as a boy in the care of Richard Neville (the Kingmaker) who schooled him in the arts of war and manners. After the Kingmaker died in 1471 at the battle of Barnet, Richard was granted Middleham by his older brother King Edward IV. Richard made it his main castle in the north, and his son Prince Edward was born here. The Prince died at the castle when he was 10 years old.

To commemorate this important resident, there is an amazing sculpture of Richard III in the bailey of the castle. The sculpture was placed there in 1996 and is the work of sculptor Linda Thompson.

If you love castles, War of the Roses or are intrigued with Richard III you have got to visit Middleham at least once. The castle is well worth a visit, with a history far more detailed than I can talk about here and Middleham itself, along with the beautiful scenery makes for a great day out.

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